The Seasons of Diabetes
Diabetes doesn't confine itself to a single week or month. It's a year-round condition, and each season offers its own challenges and opportunities for those of us with the disease. We should be prepared to change and evolve as the seasons shift--not only to stay healthy, but also to enjoy all the fun that our dynamic world offers.
Here's a quick rundown of all four seasons, with tips for living your healthiest life all year round.
The challenge: Ah, spring! It's a time to clean out the attic, get reacquainted with the outdoors, and celebrate life. With all this hopefulness and positivity in the air, it can be easy to over-commit and over-promise. Yes, it's a great idea to lose 20 pounds. Yes, it's fantastic to run three miles every day. Yes, you'd win major kudos for cutting processed foods from your diet.
But should you really commit to doing all of those things at once? Regardless of your eagerness, do you believe you'll succeed at all of them? Has this kind of big planning and small follow-though been a problem for you in the past? If so, perhaps it's time to set more manageable goals, requiring smaller day-to-day adjustments.
The opportunity: In this season, nearly everyone around you will have a positive, optimistic outlook. It's a time to achieve! And while you shouldn't over-commit, it would be crazy not to seize the opportunity to think about where you want to go with your treatment.
Take that list of overambitious goals we just mentioned. Look at it and figure out which goal you really want to do, which one just might be achievable. Then make a second list focused on ways that the goal could be reached. What healthy steps could you take to lose 20 pounds?
Take note: Nothing is better for an exercise regimen than spending time outdoors. You probably didn't get that chance during the winter, so don't waste time once spring arrives. Even if the extent of your workout is some light gardening or a stroll around the block with Fido, don't delay!
According to Boston's Joslin Diabetes Center, you'll want to make sure that your exercise program is balanced with your diabetes treatment. You may need to adjust your insulin or medication levels. So monitor your blood sugars closely and check with your doctor if you need more guidance.
The challenge: Who wants to exercise when it's so hot outside? "My goodness, you could fry an egg on the sidewalk," you hear people say, and it feels true as you head out for some attempted exercise.
Depending on where you live, the hottest weeks of the summer can sap your will to better yourself. The Joslin Center reminds people with diabetes to stay hydrated and active during the summer months. Also, try to keep cool if it's scorching outside--noon might not be the best time to take that five-mile run.
The opportunity: If you haven't tried swimming before, here's your chance! According to a 2011 online paper in The American Journal of Cardiology, a regular swimming program is great for keeping your heart in shape. People with diabetes, who face increased heart disease risks, need all the help their hearts can get!
Take note: Some people prefer a routine that's invariable and inflexible. If you approach your exercise that way, it's best to have something that you can do indoors and out. But if you like a little bit of variety, seasonal sports like swimming in the summer or skiing in the winter can add some fun to your routine.
The challenge: With Halloween on one hand and Thanksgiving on the other, it can be easy to eat your way through October and November without a second thought. Our society doesn't really let you celebrate either of those holidays without carbs, sugar, and sweets as far as the eye can see. Refuse them, and you're spoiling the fun.
The National Diabetes Education Program, part of the National Institutes of Health, has several recommendations for handling a Thanksgiving feast. You can eat a snack beforehand or bring a dish of your own. It can also be helpful to plan ahead: Figure out how much you will allow yourself to eat before politely refusing any more. As for Halloween? Maybe you can just hide for a couple of days.
The opportunity: While the temperatures are dropping, you still have a chance for decent outdoor exercise. Sure, you might have to put on a jacket or hat. But you can get your blood pumping and muscles humming without a major production.
You also have a genuine opportunity with regard to the food challenges mentioned above. You can educate your family and friends by explaining--not in an aggressive, defensive way, but in an empathetic and caring one--that you truly need to be different from everybody else. Your health demands it.
Take note: Fall can cause subtle problems, too. For one thing, you're probably realizing that you haven't gotten to all of the improvements that you meant to make in the spring and summer. It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the few months remaining in the year. Beware of that emotion: When you feel overwhelmed, it can be very easy to fall off the wagon. Stay the course and do the things that you need to do.
The challenge: Where do we even start? Winter is by far the worst season for people with diabetes and those who love them. How isn't it challenging?
For starters, whether you live in a mild or a cold climate, winter makes outdoor exercise very difficult. If you're one of the many people with diabetes who get most of their exercise from walking, this season can derail your entire routine.
And you know those holidays we were talking about during the fall? You've got a couple of them during the winter, too--Christmas, obviously, but also New Year's. The latter is when it's important to brush up on your knowledge of how alcohol interacts with your disease.
The California Department of Developmental Services also notes that winter is generally flu season. The flu can wreak havoc on your diabetes control, so make sure to get your flu vaccination to protect yourself and those around you!
The opportunity: If your exercise routine can survive the winter, it can survive anything. No matter how you do it--with a Wii Fit game, an exercise bike, a treadmill, or simply walking in place--mustering the dedication to survive this season will pay off. For one thing, you won't find yourself having to make a New Year's resolution again. You can just keep doing what you're doing!
Take note: Not everyone in the United States deals with these exact seasons, of course. In Florida, winter simply means the arrival of the rainy season, and up in Alaska, winter ushers in even more cold than usual. But unless you live in a hyperbaric chamber, your seasons will shift and change in some manner, and the challenges outlined above will find you. It's always wise to be prepared.
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